Everyone's a winner - WRVS to revolutionise Community Meals

October 22, 2008 3:27 PM

Older and vulnerable people are ready to reap the benefits after Gloucestershire County Council's Cabinet announced today that it intends for WRVS to take on their Community Meals service.

The Women's Royal Volunteer Service is the preferred bidder for the five-year contract, which will start on April 1st, 2009. It already delivers hot meals to more than 1000 people each week for the county council, but the new contract would also see WRVS take on the catering, providing the complete package.

Community Meals (formerly Meals on Wheels) is a service provided to people who are assessed as needing support to maintain a healthy diet by the council. WRVS will implement the following improvements:

· The service will now be available seven days a week countywide.

· There will be an option of frozen meals for people that ask for them.

· The number of meals provided will increase from 163,000 to a predicted 214,000 per year.

· Ethnic minorities will be catered for. Vegetarian and special diet options will also be increased.

The option to provide a bulk delivery of nutritious frozen meals will allow the people who choose this option to eat when they want to. Microwaves and freezer facilities will be provided free of charge where they are needed. Hot meals will continue to be provided every day to those service users who need them.

The evaluation process for the contract included tasting sessions at Hatherley Day Centre for service users and county council staff. WRVS emerged as the highest ranked bidder.

Community Meals will continue to supply meals to people in their own homes but will now also supply adult opportunity centres, day centres and private arrangements such as lunch clubs. There will be an estimated £50,000 saving to taxpayers as a result of efficiency savings. The current cost to the service user of £2.50 will remain the same when the new contract begins, although this charge will be reviewed each year in the normal way.

Gloucestershire County Council Purchasing Officer John Feege said: "WRVS has a proven track record in delivering Community Meals contracts in other parts of the country, and it has a long-standing relationship with the service in Gloucestershire, which should help ensure a smoother transition process.

"As WRVS already currently deliver the meals, the people who use the Community Meals service already know its staff and volunteers. That familiarity is so important to older and vulnerable people."

Cllr Tony Hicks, Gloucestershire County Council Cabinet Member for Adult Services, said: "This is great news for older people in Gloucestershire. The county council is going to offer more choice of meals to more pensioners and other vulnerable people, in a way that gives them flexibility about when they want to eat.

"Better still, this won't cost recipients any more and because we're doing things more efficiently, it will even save the council money. This really is a deal where everybody wins."

The WRVS is currently developing a 'Good Neighbours' scheme in Gloucestershire to help provide a support network that will allow older people to remain in their own home and community for longer - also a key priority of Gloucestershire County Council.